Announcing Our New Online Gallery

Here in PPL’s Special Collections, we have the immense pleasure of working frequently with amazing artists and designers who use our collections for information, inspiration, and source materials. They challenge us with unusual research questions and dig into our materials in delightful, non-linear ways.

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Photo of paint brush and palette from a studio visit with Keri King

Which leads to our exciting announcement: we’ve created an online gallery featuring artworks inspired by materials from our collections! Click through to see artworks, source materials, artist bios, and links to artists’ websites. (Special thanks to our Digital Content Coordinator, John Bent, for all of his hard work on this.)

We’ll be adding to the gallery in the coming months. Have you made something based on Special Collections research that you’d like to see included? Drop us a line.

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Tattoo Ideas from the Updike Collection

Our Updike Collection on the History of Printing contains a tremendous number of type specimen books, many of which have sections of cuts–small, reusable illustrations that printers could purchase to illustrate books, newspapers, broadsides, and the like. (We often describe them as “historic clip art”.)

More often than not, first-time viewers of these cuts will point to one and exclaim, “Wow, that would make a great tattoo!” Which brings us to two points:

  1. If you own a tattoo shop and want to work out a deal, get in touch;
  2. We have a LOT of fun ideas for tattoos.

We’d like to present a few recent inspirations, all from a recently cataloged specimen book from the G. Schildknecht type foundry in Brussels.

Religious tattoos are always popular, but does anyone really need to see another bicep graced by a sacred heart? Why not get a unique religious tattoo, like this image of St. Nicholas with three babies in a wooden tub?

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(If you don’t know the story of St. Nicholas miraculously resurrecting three babies who were chopped up and salted by an evil butcher, well, now you do.)

If that’s too tame for you, you could also get this image of an apparition of Mary in a… tree? Is that a mushroom cloud? Why don’t Mary or baby Jesus have limbs? If you know more about what this image is depicting, please let us know.

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If a religious tattoo isn’t for you, may we suggest an animal? Such as…

…totally stoked cat, disheveled porcupine, maned sloth with a weird face, or side-eye sheep?

For the truly fun-loving tattoo-getter, there’s always Dionysus, which is my preliminary identification of the fun-loving and wavy-eyedbrowed gent shown here:

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And finally, for those looking for a unique twist on the traditional “Mom” tattoo, how about this stylized face situation, with “Mom” on the banner?

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Becci Davis Artist’s Talk at PPL 6/13

We’re very sad to say that our 2018 Creative Fellow’s time with us is coming to a close at the end of June. We’ve had a delightful time working with her, and it’s been energizing and exciting to see the new work that she’s created based on our collections.

First, we’d like to say that Becci Davis gave an astounding and well-received performance on the library’s Washington Street steps this past Saturday as part of PVDFest, complete with large-scale banners bearing images of items from our Special Collections. Below are a couple of photographs of her performance:

If you missed Saturday’s performance, or if you loved it so much that it left you wanting more, you’ll be happy to hear that tomorrow (Wednesday, June 13, 2018), you’ll have TWO opportunities to see Becci!

First, she’ll be bringing her Beacon Beauty Shop (as seen at our HairBrained opening) to Burnside Park in downtown Providence from 11:00 – 2:00. A description from the artist:

Beacon Beauty Shop is an interactive art performance. Becci Davis had her first appointment in a beauty shop when she was ten years old. Since then, she has been a patron in numerous beauty salons and found that elements of Black salon culture are widespread. That alone is something beautiful. These institutions are beacons of Black culture and the setting to countless intimate interactions between stylist and client. Join her as she examines beauty shop culture through performance. Share good, bad, and awkward moments in an intimate, 5 minute, one-on-one exchange.

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Then, later that same day, Becci is giving an artist’s talk at the library, where she’ll reflect on her research and creative process, show documentation of Saturday’s performance of Private Proclamations, and answer questions. (Thank you to Matthew Lawrence of Law and Order Party for a lovely shout-out regarding this talk!)

We hope to see you there!

Creative Fellow Becci Davis Performs “Private Proclamations” on June 9

After nearly 8 months of research, planning, story-collecting, writing, and interdisciplinary art-making, PPL’s 2018 Creative Fellow Becci Davis has created a multi-part performance entitled “Private Proclamations.”

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Please join us for Becci’s culminating performance next Saturday, June 9, 2018 at 2:30 pm as part of PVDFest. The performance will be outdoors, on the library’s Washington Street steps (near the historic entrance); it’s free of charge and open to the public, and no advance registration is required. In the words of the artist, “Private Proclamations is a performance about Black hair in three parts. Part One: Letters to my Locks establishes a level of intimacy between the performer and audience. In Part Two: Act It Loud, appropriate private behavior in public spaces is redefined through defiance. Part Three: Please Touch presents an invitation for change through collective action.”

Parking downtown will likely be tricky, as PVDFest brings numerous street closures and large crowds. Read more about parking and public transportation options on the PVDFest FAQ’s page.

Becci will also give an artist’s talk at the library about her process and her performance on the following Wednesday, June 13. We look forward to seeing you there!

Follow our Creative Fellow’s Research!

PPL’s 2018 Creative Fellow, artist Becky Davis, has been poring over books, pamphlets, letters, and ephemera from our Fiske-Harris Civil War Collection, and looking through historic magazines and newspapers.

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If you’re interested in seeing some highlights from Becky’s research and learning more about her process, you can read her blog! She also started an Instagram account featuring photographs of materials she finds here at the library, alongside related materials from other repositories.

Keri King Studio Visit

Amidst sequential snow storms, unseasonably warm weather, and a wild scramble to install the library’s big annual exhibit, we ventured into the wilds of Providence for a studio visit with our 2017 Creative Fellow Keri King.

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Here you can see Keri seated at her wooden drafting table (it’s a family heirloom!).

You can read our previous blog post about Keri’s research process here. During this visit, she described her collage process, and the new methods she’s trying during her fellowship:

This Creative Fellowship is driving me to explore color and new collage techniques. I’m experimenting with a combination of analogue and digital processes to create my illustrative collage. I’m adjusting imagery [from high-resolution scans of library materials] in Photoshop so that each collage element prints at the desired size, before I physically cut it out… Typically, I work in black and white; I generate collage materials by photocopying source documents – I can get the size I need through repeated photocopying using semi-rational fraction-based math. Afterwards, I edit with whiteout, sharpie, and black ink … This go round I’m manipulating my color palette in Photoshop and I’m popping details in the hard copy with paint. It’s yielding a lot of juicy surprises!

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Once images are cut out, Keri arranges them on a surface using white artist’s tape, which is repositionable, so she can try various layouts. An awesome collage tip from this pro: “I use Sharpie on the cut edge of the paper to avoid flares of white in the finished product. After doing this for a while, I found out that Terry Gilliam used to do this in his cut-out animations for Monty Python!”

Keri’s finished product–an 8 foot x 8 foot, full-color mural, enlarged from the collage she’s working on in these photos–will be on view at the March 1st On the Table launch party. Join us that evening for live music, a food art installation, and the unveiling of our 2017 exhibition!

Keri King: Collaborative Research, Collage, and Creativity

 

In conjunction with our annual Exhibition & Program Series, PPL offers a Creative Fellowship for a Rhode Island artist who creates new work incorporating imagery from or inspired by the library’s Special Collections. Our 2017 Creative Fellow, Keri King, is a fantastic Providence-based artist who creates collage and illustration-based work. Keri has been researching in Special Collections and in our historical magazine collections for several months; below is the first of two guest blog posts showcasing Keri’s creative process!

In my work, I like to blend drawing and collage. I incorporate a lot of source imagery from magazines, newspaper clippings, vintage posters, and such, into each piece. I enjoy how each cut-out element has its own history and adds to an overall narrative with tonal/ textural results.

Research is an essential part of my work flow! For most projects, my process is as follows:

  1. I sketch.
  2. I draft what I like to call my “grocery list” (figuring out what source images I need) & site “shopping centers” (where I can find those images).
  3. I research (I look, I tab, I get a little off track while exploring, I check things out from the library…)
  4. I play with a xerox machine.
  5. I collage.
  6. And I’m back to drawing, synthesizing the varied materials within a collage into one cohesive image.

My process is slightly different for the Creative Fellowship at the library, where I’m creating an 8 foot x 8 foot mural that will be displayed inside the Empire Street entrance to the library. I’ve proposed a collage illustration of a dinner party, with families from a handful of time periods in America coming around a table to eat.

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One distinction from my usual research process is that I can’t just pull things off the shelves in Special Collections. Instead, I use the library’s “human Google”: I tell Angela, the Curatorial Assistant, what I’m looking for, and she pulls books and magazines from the stacks for me, which I then look at in the Reading Room. (I got a tour of Special Collections at the beginning of my fellowship, so I have some idea of the frankly magical wealth of resources that are available to me.)

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The stuff that Angela finds is always much more than what I bargained for. She thinks of sources I wouldn’t ever have on my radar, and these unexpected shares lead to new, playful connections in my work. My process is energized by our collaborative research.

Since the summer, I’ve looked at all kinds of things, including:

-images of food and characters

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-images of locations that could provide a backdrop

Sunken gardens, Roger Williams Park, Providence, R.I.

I’m leaning towards an alfresco backdrop, and I’ve been focusing on outdoor locations in Rhode Island.

-furniture

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One day I went picnic table shopping.

-advertising from old home magazines

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I’m fascinated with food advertising from the 1940s into the 1950s, much of which is not very appetizing. I particularly love this savory tomato aspic gelatin. I’m exploring the possibility of a savory aspic hostess.

Because Special Collections materials are often fragile, I can’t Xerox them, so I’ve been working with high-resolution scans and photographs. Right now I’m in my collage and drawing phase.

Keri’s mural will be unveiled on March 1st at the opening event for our 2017 Exhibition and Program Series. Stop by any time between then and June 30th to see the final results of Keri’s work. She’ll also be giving an artist’s talk at the library on April 30th–mark your calendars!